Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

A U.N. agency has found the initial health impacts of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi accident to be minimal, while another international body recently gave its approval to the so-called stress tests for the country’s other reactors. At Fukushima itself, the news was less encouraging, as leaks continue to plague the complex system of pipes moving contaminated water between treatment facilities and the damaged units.

Developments at the nuclear plant damaged following the earthquake and tsunami last March include:

Early evacuations helped reduce health impact

At a meeting this week to discuss the health effects of the accident, researchers from the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said screening of people near the plant turned up radiation doses that were very low. Some 80,000 residents evacuated following the plant blackout, which helped keep the health impacts observed to date small, the committee’s chairman told Reuters. The committee also found follow-up examinations of the handful of workers treated for elevated radiation exposure were also positive. The agency will issue a preliminary report in May, and a final draft will be sent to the U.N. General Assembly in 2013.

Water leak in Fukushima Daiichi unit 4. Source: TEPCO8.5 tons of water leaks at unit 4

On Tuesday afternoon, a plant worker found water leaking in the reactor building of unit 4 from a pipe that may have frozen. TEPCO reported the 8.5 metric tons of water estimated to have escaped was confined to a drain within the building, and that the water’s radioactivity was low. Much smaller leaks at other points around the plant’s makeshift water treatment systems were also reported last week.

Stress tests meet IAEA approval

In an assessment Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the stress tests of Japanese reactors conducted in response to the crisis met the agency’s safety standards. Only three of the country’s 54 reactors are currently operating, as plants taken offline following the accident have faced political opposition to restarting. The government has ordered computer modeling to test reactors’ preparedness for extreme accident scenarios. The U.N. gave its tentative endorsement of those tests, while also making recommendations that included more detailed study of risks from earthquakes and tsunamis.

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  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    The pipe that leaked 8.5 tons of water was not attached to the reactor. It was attached to unit #4 SPF's substitute (a.k.a makeshift) cooling system. Come on, folks. You know better than that!

  • Thanks for the clarification, Leslie. I initially thought it odd, too, that they would be running water to the empty RPV. TEPCO's press releases on the leak have been very vague, and I drew from a TEPCO interview quoted by Kyodo. The Japanese news agency described it as "a pipe connected to the reactor." On second thought, though, your point makes more sense, and I've changed the wording to reflect that.

    Peter

    Nuclear Street News Team